U.N. atomic agency sets Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to explain nuclear activities

Friday, September 12th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ The U.N. atomic agency board on Friday said Iran has until the end of October to clear up suspicions about its nuclear aims, setting the stage for possible U.N. Security Council action should it not comply.

Iran walked out of the meeting in response. Iran repeatedly has warned it would not accept any deadline carrying the possibility of future Security Council involvement, implying that such a decision would aggravate nuclear tensions.

The U.S.-backed resolution submitted by Australia, Canada and Japan called on Iran to ``provide accelerated cooperation'' with agency efforts to clear up Tehran's nuclear question marks.

It also urged Iran to ``ensure there are no further failures,'' in reporting obligations and called on it to ``suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material'' into a facility where IAEA inspectors found traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium.

Although the resolution threatened no consequences, diplomats at the meeting said Security Council involvement appeared likely if the next board meeting in November found the Iranians not cooperating and thereby violating parts of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty banning the spread of nuclear arms.

The United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of working on a secret nuclear weapons program. They pushed for a resolution at this meeting finding Iran in noncompliance with the treaty but gave up because of a lack of support among board members.

Iran walked out in protest as the measure was accepted Friday, said diplomats in the closed meeting.

An IAEA report to the board said traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium were found at an Iranian nuclear facility in southern Natanz and said Iran conducted tests that experts say make little sense unless the country was pursuing nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists its nuclear programs are for generating electricity and claims its equipment was ``contaminated'' with enriched uranium by a previous owner.

The resolution was passed with no vote, the diplomats said.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei toured Iran's nuclear facilities in February, including the incomplete plant in Natanz, about 300 miles south of Tehran, where he was said to be dismayed by the advanced stage of a project using hundreds of centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Conference delegates spent most of their time since Monday debating the Iran resolution. Tehran warned that too many demands on it could hurt chances of increased cooperation with the IAEA while the United States and its allies were pushing for a resolution with teeth in it.

The resolution said Iran should ``provide accelerated cooperation and full transparency'' to allow the IAEA to reassure its members that Tehran's nuclear programs are for peaceful purposes.

It also urged Tehran to:

_Ensure there are no further failures to report material, facilities and activities that Iran is obliged to report to the IAEA;

_Suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including those at Natanz;

_Urgently ``remedy all failures identified by the agency'' by fully declaring all of its material and components used to enrich uranium and granting unrestricted access to agency inspectors.